The Pan American University (now UTRGV) baseball Broncs finished the 1987 regular season with an impressive 38-20 record.
But more remarkable than the victories was the fact that centerfielder Donald Guillot stole more bases than any other Bronc that came before him. Once he got to first base, he was unstoppable.
Pan Am ended their regular season by taking three out of four from the University of Maine. In which Guillot stole nine bases in 11 attempts—ending the series with his 101st and 102nd stolen bases. It was estimated that he dived, slid and stumbled about 300 times throughout the season. Every stolen base was a painful experience, but that did not impede him from doing it again, and again.
Unfortunately, Donald was two stolen bases short of the NCAA record held by Tim Barker of Central Florida, who stole 104 cushions in 87 games in 1985.
As the Broncs waited to see if they would be invited to the NCAA Division I playoffs—coach Ogletree was doing his best to get two more home games.
Guillot’s dream of breaking the national record was once again in the spotlight when Olgetree found an opponent in Southern University of Louisiana. But the Jaguars were no pushovers as they were crowned Southwestern Conference Champions with 30-18 record.
Going into the series, Donald had 102 stolen bases in 117 attempts. I’ve got a lot of bruises all over from sliding,” said Guillot. “It takes a toll on the body after a while.”
When it was the norm to slide feet first—that was not the case for the former Port Isabel Tarpon. He felt that sliding feet first would slow him down, so he developed a habit of diving head-first.
He was not the first to use this style of sliding, major league baseball had used the headfirst slide since the middle of the 1880s.
And you can give credit to Pete Rose for popularizing it in the 1960s. I do not think Pete would mind if Donald was labeled as the “Charlie Hustle” of college baseball.
“I like to get dirty. That is just the way I am,” Guillot said. “If I’m not dirty, I don’t feel like I’m doing my job.”
“He makes a lot of things happen,” said Coach Al Ogletree. “It’s hard to measure, but he makes a lot of things happen when he gets on base.”
Olgetree went on to comment that he did not like to see Donald slide headfirst. Guillot missed most of the ’86 season when he broke his left hand while sliding into second base.
The stage was set for a Friday and Saturday games in Edinburg, and of course, the main character and feature attraction was Donald Guillot. The gladiator was dreadfully weary and playing with a badly bruised left thumbnail.
Chasin’ the jewel at the end of the journey came to an end after the first game of the series—as Guillot stole four bases ending the day with a recording setting 106 steals.
The day did not come without adding another bruise to his body— his hand was accidentally stepped on which caused a broken thumb.
In the Saturday game a former Brownsville Porter High School great, Sammy Hernandez, slugged a first-inning home run and four straight hits to help the Broncs win their 40th game of the season.
In his last outing, and after the dust cleared, Guillot had added one more stolen base to his record and finished the day, and the season with the National NCAA Division I record of 107 steals in just 60 games. “It feels good. I’m glad it’s over,” Guillot said after the record-breaker.
Donald was an all-state quarterback in high school. Guillot said he chose baseball over football because of the seven concussions he suffered when he led the Tarpons to the state football semi-finals.
The former PI Tarpon was on the roster of the USA baseball team that participated in the 1987 Pan American Games—a fitting tribute for one who established a stolen base standard that is still in the record books today.
Donald’s historical feat received national attention when it was mentioned in the New York Times article titled, “Sports People; Baseball Marks Fall.”
Guillot was often seen in the middle of a swirl of dust, prone on the ground, tangled around the bag and maybe down, but seldom out.
“He lived at first but made a home at second.”
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by writer and researcher René Torres of Brownsville, Texas. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Torres can be reached via email at: [email protected].
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